Home owner’s associations can be great way to make sure that your community is protected and has a reasonably uniform aesthetic. They can regulate parking so that you have a good flow and other such amenities that your community can offer. This can however become completely oppressive when it comes to stuff like thinking about adding a fence but never fear! There are ways to work with your HOA if you understand what kinds of things they have power over and what you should consider before approaching them with your dream of a fence.

HOA supporters say rules protect home values, but some worry they wield too much power.
home with landscaped yard

Homeowners associations establish rules for what you can do with your property. (Photo courtesy of Laura H., Charlottesville, Virginia)

Angie’s List member Penny Katz likes to refer to her grown dachshund, Beemer, as a puppy. But when her condo association found out, the group sent her a letter demanding proof that Beemer was the same dog the Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, resident has owned for years.

Katz refused. The association began restricting pets more than 10 years ago, but allowed residents who already had pets — like Katz — to keep them. She says she didn’t feel she needed to provide further proof she owned the same dog, since she already did when the association’s rules changed. “I call my dog a puppy,” she says. “That was basically the problem.”

The association eventually dropped the issue, says Katz, who adds that she believes in following procedures but questions how much leeway the law gives homeowners associations to investigate and enforce their policies. Her association’s property management company, Robert H. Wise Management in Springfield, Pennsylvania, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Fire hydrant in snow

HOAs usually hire and schedule important tasks such as snow removal. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

Explaining HOA covenants, conditions and restrictions

Proponents of condo and homeowners associations say the groups use rules and regulations to protect home values and curb appeal, while opponents say the HOAs are poorly regulated, which can lead to abuse of power or negligence.

Though some states have passed laws to address the authority of condo and homeowners associations, the organizations can legally control what you do with your property. A developer forms an association when they build a neighborhood, and residents join that association when they sign a legally binding contract upon buying a home.

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